God’s people have been given many promises, and among the most precious of these is that the Lord will be with us wherever we go. Old covenant Israel received the promise that God would never leave or forsake her, and this promise is extended to the new covenant church (Deut. 31:6; Heb. 13:5). Our Creator is with His people in a special way, bringing with Him provision and assurance. But what is perhaps most remarkable of all is that the Lord promises to fight for us (Ex. 14:14). God is on our side.
Some qualification is needed here. God is on our side only because we are on His side, because we have bowed the knee to Him and joined His army. Furthermore, that the Lord is on our side does not mean we are guaranteed immediate success in every endeavor. God fights only in the holy battles we wage, and not every conflict or endeavor that we pursue is a godly one. We also know that sometimes God allows what seems to be a loss in battle in order to win the war. Just consider the death of Christ: what appeared to be a defeat at the hands of sin and Satan actually became the means by which our Savior conquered them once and for all (Col. 2:13–15).
Yet there are many occasions on which the Lord’s doing battle for us provides victory in the present. The author of Psalm 118 helps us see this, showing us how to praise God for His aid. He describes an occasion when he was surrounded by his enemies and there seemed to be no hope of victory (vv. 10–12). He found himself on the brink of disaster, but God intervened to save him (v. 13). The psalmist never identifies himself, speaking in generic terms as a representative of the people of God. Thus, this psalm has application to all manner of struggles both personally and as the corporate church. It is a model for how we are to thank the Lord for deliverance from many difficulties.
That God fights for us is easy to confess with our mouths but much harder to believe in our hearts. So, we must turn repeatedly to the promise that God will fight on our side, that we may rest confident in Him no matter what assails us. John Calvin comments that though all profess that the Lord is a better ally than anyone else, “yet there is scarcely one among a hundred who is fully persuaded that God alone can afford him sufficient help. That man has attained a high rank among the faithful, who, resting satisfied in God, never ceases to entertain a lively hope, even when he finds no help upon earth.”